Christ would have died to save that person were he or she the only person on the face of the earth. It’s not that together, enough people make enough reason for Christ to die. The value of a person is not cumulative, i.e. enough of them will tip the scale and make them all worth saving. No, each one is worth saving were he or she the only one. The value is not in numbers, the value is in the individual.
Each person is holy, sacred, made in God’s image and therefore valuable, like God is valuable. In that way, each person is an end in themselves, not like forming a church or making converts where enough people make it worthwhile, but worthy of their existence no matter who they are or what they believe.
It’s not that added together, enough people make an institution, it’s that each one is an institution. This is true regardless of ethnicity, social status, intelligence, or personality development. A roomful of retarded children is just as valuable as a roomful of CEOs or scientists or nobel prize recipients.
Realizing this should have a profound effect on how we think about and treat people. This makes every relationship a national treasure, every encounter, a photo op. We should be getting everyone’s autograph. Collect them all, because they’re going to be famous someday, or perhaps it should be that someday, we will realize how famous everyone really is and always have been. We will meet that homeless person shining like a star in heaven, and say, “Hey … I remember you; I got your autograph.”
Knowing this makes you want to pay attention to everyone. Listen; take it all in; find out who this person is, and why he or she is so important. This is why followers of Christ should be continually astonished — astonished at their own salvation, and astonished that the grace which has been extended to them has been extended to everyone around them. This is grace turned outward. This is the way we want to live — turning every good thing that has been extended to us, inside out to everyone, regardless.
I grew up learning that I had to find out something about a person before I could attach worth to them. I’m growing older trying to forget what I learned.